Has Phil Schiller Become Steve Jobs' "Good Twin"?

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It is hard to congratulate a top-tier executive of a consumer electronics company for deigning to speak to customers, but Apple's Phil Schiller deserves it. As much as anyone in his position can.

And Phil isn't so much speaking to customers as guaranteed-friendly media and developer friends. Still, Phil's recent e-mailed explanations of his company's ongoing dumb moves represent a crack in Apple's fabled wall of silence.

For the record, based on Schiller's e-mail, I think Apple did the right thing in the dictionary-banning flap. Without his email, I would not have known.

Apple's cult of Steve Jobs and culture of extreme secrecy are not just things that happened by accident. They are part of the market plan.

Back when the company couldn't afford splashy product launches an Apple executive once estimated that the rumors and hoopla were worth a few million spent on advertising. Now, the Apple cult is worth much more.

Without corporate customers pushing Apple to release ongoing product roadmaps, the company is free to manipulate the media as it chooses. Some Apple rumors seem to be intentionally released by the company.

Phil Schiller, whom I haven't spoken to in several years, has a reputation as a bit of a fixer and nice guy inside Apple. If you have a problem that isn’t finance or engineering and is important enough, go see Phil. He settles battles between warring factions in the oh-so-political culture down in Cupertino.

My hope is that Schiller is on a mission-from-Steve to mend a few fences and improve some internal processes, most notably its App Store approval maze. My other hope is that Schiller would have been a voice against the banning of Google Voice applications, making him more than another Steve flunky.

It's not clear how many people there are at Apple capable of speaking truth to power.

My bet is that Phil's emails were personally approved--and least in concept--by Steve and the Apple PR machine. I'd rather think Phil sent the messages entirely on his own, but would be surprised if that were true.

Regardless, Apple's iron curtain has parted just a hair of late. I hope it continues to open and the company's behavior towards customers correspondingly improves.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site. This column was Made on a Mac.

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